Introduction: It is impossible to go through life without experiencing hurts, wounds, and disappointments. Our responses to these often lead to bitterness and unforgiveness. As the people of God, we have been called to a higher walk. Jesus challenges us to love our enemies, even those who hate and plot evil against us. Forgiveness is never easy. However, God always gives us the ability to live according to His Word and example. In this lesson we will cover:
- Why it is important for you to forgive others.
- How unforgiveness works destruction in your life.
- How to overcome unforgiveness and bitterness.
- Positive steps to take to complete the forgiveness process.
I. Why it is important for you to forgive others
Remember, forgiveness or bitterness-it’s your choice.
A. If you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you. God requires you to forgive everyone for every offense committed.
1. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. For you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But f you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15 NIV).
2. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other; just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).
3. Biblical example-Matthew 18:21-35: A servant was forgiven an enormous debt, but he in turn refused to forgive a fellow servant a small debt. As a result, his master delivered the unforgiving servant to tormentors in prison until he paid all that he owed. Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35 NIV).
B. Jesus said to forgive people” seventy times seven,” which is another way of telling us to forgive others without counting how many times they have offended us. “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22 NIV).
C. You can only serve and lead to Jesus those whom you have forgiven. Forgiveness releases the love of Jesus in your heart to others.
II. How unforgiveness works destruction in your life
A. It produces a root of bitterness in you. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV).
B. This root of bitterness must be fed and watered by you for it to continue to grow. This occurs when you harbor resentment, rehearse hurts, and seek to justify your unforgiveness. Resentment is like a fire-it needs to be supplied with fuel to live. To maintain an attitude of resentment, you must continually feed on negative, judgmental thoughts, feelings, and desires-toward God, your fellowman, or your situation.
C. If not dealt with, bitterness will cause a breakdown, socially, mentally, and physically in your life. It has the effect of poisoning your life.
D. Unforgiveness and the resulting bitterness cause your family, friends, and those around you to be poisoned as well.
E. Holding on to hurts and past wounds causes your fellowship with God to be broken and robs you of joy, peace, and love.
F. Resentment and bitterness (the fruits of unforgiveness) act together as prison bars for your soul.
G. Unforgiveness allows Satan access into your life to build strongholds from which he can exert controlling influences in your life. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (II Corinthians 10:4 KJV).
III. How to overcome unforgiveness and bitterness
A. Repent of all unforgiveness and bitterness.
B. Confess your sin to God and, if necessary, to the person/s it has harmed.
C. Ask for their forgiveness (be specific). Be careful that you emphasize your sinful attitude and behavior. Do not use this time as an occasion to make others aware of their wrongdoings. You are the one who has been convicted by the Holy Spirit, not they.
D. Receive God’s forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 NIV).
E. Resist unforgiveness. Do not allow ill feelings to take hold of you. Deal aggressively with negative feelings and attitudes. You may need assistance from other believers or counselors to whom you can be accountable. This is an important principle concerning any chronic sinful behavior in the life of a believer.
F. Fill your mind with good thoughts. In Philippians 4:8 you are given a catalog of thoughts that you should entertain in your mind: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
IV. Positive steps to take to complete the forgiveness process. Confess the following out loud:
A. I have been forgiven of my sins by God. Therefore, I choose to forgive others who have done me wrong.
B. I release from all personal judgment those who have wronged or hurt me.
C. I pray prayers of blessings on those who have wronged me.